Shrek: Go over there and see if you can find any stairs.The standard place to imprison damsels in distress and overthrown princes: A tower. Preferably the tallest tower, in the biggest castle, on the highest hill, in the most dangerous land in the whole wide world. After all, It's All Upstairs from Here. May be attached to an Evil Tower of Ominousness or The Alcatraz, although some are freestanding. A Bedsheet Ladder or Rapunzel Hair is an invaluable tool in such cases. Possibly inspired by the Tower of London; originally a royal residence, the Tower later became a prison that was often used to house royal prisoners. See also Locked Away in a Monastery (used for broadly similar purposes, but without the implication of evil) and Madwoman in the Attic (a darker version where someone considered incapable of venturing out into normal society is kept hidden and confined).
Donkey: Stairs? I thought we was lookin' for the Princess.
Shrek: The Princess will be at the top of the stairs in the highest room in the tallest tower.
Donkey: Well, what makes you think she'll be there?
Shrek: I read it in a book once.
Donkey: Stairs? I thought we was lookin' for the Princess.
Shrek: The Princess will be at the top of the stairs in the highest room in the tallest tower.
Donkey: Well, what makes you think she'll be there?
Shrek: I read it in a book once.
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- Clarisse in The Castle of Cagliostro.
- Fai/Yuui and his twin brother were trapped for long time in a tower in Tsubasa -RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE-.
- Alice of Pandora Hearts was this to a tee. When she was alive. Jack was her first friend after he discovered her in her lonely prison of a tower. At least, the Will of the Abyss' first friend was Jack. As for the Alice we know, she has been known to get along well with Glen. The both of them. Without realizing that they are her father and uncle respectively.
- Before her was her mother, Lacie. Though, this Girl in the Tower isn't as easily contained as other examples, constantly slipping out whenever she gets the chance.
- A male example: Len from the manga adaptation of mothy's "Aku no Meshitsukai" is locked in a tower from birth when it's revealed that he possesses the birthmark that the fortune teller prophesied would lead the country into ruin. His twin sister Rin eventually finds him there and starts visiting him.
- Diva from Blood+ was kept isolated from the world whereas her sister could get out.
- Princess Shirahoshi from One Piece is a variation: Her Stalker with a Crush, Vander Decken, can literally kill her from miles away because of his powers. This means that she had to stay confined in her room, which is located atop a tower, for ten years. Since she's only sixteen, that means she literally spent most of her life in that tower.
- In the Frozen Teardrops novel to Mobile Suit Gundam Wing, it's revealed that Relena's great-aunt Sabrina Peacecraft was locked away with only a cat to keep her company.
- In one of the first arcs of Fairy Tail, Lucy is knocked out and kidnapped by a rival guild. She's placed in one of these overlooking said rival guild's headquarters. It holds her for all of five minutes once she wakes up.
- Grimms Fairytale Classics
- The series' version of "Princess Briar Rose / Sleeping Beauty'' has the titular Briar Rose locked away in a luxurious tower of her palace to protect her from the curse.
- Like in the Disney version, "Cinderella" gets locked in her tower room by her Wicked Stepmother and her mean stepsisters. Her animal friends bail her out and build a net that they use to fly her to the Royal Palace, so she can put on her slipper and tell the Prince that she's the girl he loves.
- A version of it in YuYu Hakusho where Yukina is trapped in a stronghold mansion. Within that mansion she's in a tower and does need to be rescued by the main characters. She herself becomes a recurring character herself after that.
- This Spanish comic based on◊ The Fairly Oddparents has Tootie in this role.
- Exploited in a Conan the Barbarian story: The princess in question is just a preserved corpse automated to wave once in a while, to lure potential challengers (who have to give up a deposit and sign an indemnity form first.
- Another Savage Sword of Conan story had Conan rescue a young princess locked away in a tower in the middle of a lost land by her father. Said princess was actually a powerful demon who, upon being freed, destroyed her father's kingdom.
- Lucifer: Jill Presto becomes a prisoner in the tower of the Basanos.
- Princeless starts off with this, then the princess gets tired of waiting for a rescue and so frees herself.
- "Rapunzel" is a famous case of this, although she nixed the bedsheet in favour of nature's ladder.
- "The Tinderbox" is another fairy tale with a damsel in distress who must be rescued by the handsome hero.
- In "The Blue Bird", Florine is imprisoned in a tower by her stepmother so she cannot see her beloved King Charming, who has been turned into a bird.
- In "An Impossible Enchantment", Graziella is imprisoned in a tower in the middle of the sea.
- In "The Grateful Beasts," the princess gets locked in the tower for complaining about her father's Impossible Tasks. This means she isn't there when the hero performs the third task— summoning all the wolves in the kingdom. Who turn out to be hungry.
- In the American "Like Meat Loves Salt" instead of turning his daughter out when she says she loves him like salt, he imprisons her in a tower.
- The Discreet Princess starts with a king who goes on a Crusade and leaves his three daughters locked in a tower. Turns out he was Properly Paranoid.
- In "My Brave Pony: Starfleet Nemesis," due to being ashamed that her wings did not develop fully, Celesto keeps Leilani locked away in a tower.
- For the first half of "Zastruga," Jack Frost inverts this trope as a male example, though his "tower" stretches down into the ground rather than rising up over it.
- Cinderella is locked in her tower room in the final act of the Disney retelling.
- Tangled, Disney's take on "Rapunzel". Unlike in the fairy tale, this tower does have a secret entrance, though presumably Rapunzel doesn't know about it.
- The eponymous heroine from Disney's Sleeping Beauty slumbers in an artistically tall tower.
- Mixed with the Evil Tower of Ominousness and clearly inspired by either Rapunzel or Sleeping Beauty, Princess Fiona in Shrek is this.
- Quasimodo is a rare male example from The Hunchback of Notre Dame.
Film, Live Action
- In Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Lancelot goes to rescue a damsel in distress from the Tall Tower. Hilarity Ensues.
- Played with in Mirror, Mirror where after her father's death, Snow White didn't leave the castle due to the Queen convincing her that she isn't capable of venturing outside.
- Mad Max: Fury Road. Our heroes come across a naked woman imprisoned in the ruins of a high tension tower, screaming for help. However Max instantly recognizes it as Schmuck Bait for the gang lurking in ambush.
- The original Man in the Iron Mask was said to have been held in a tower in the Bastille.
- The overthrown king Peter's imprisonment in the tower called "The Needle," in Stephen King's novel The Eyes of the Dragon.
- In A Song of Ice and Fire;
- King Baelor the Blessed imprisoned his three sisters to prevent them from tempting him into cardinal sin. They were even known as "The Three Maids in the Tower."
- Ned thought he was rescuing his sister Lyanna from her kidnapper Prince Rhaegar Targaryen, and found her in a remote tower guarded by three knights... but when he gets to her, there is speculation confirmed by the television series that he finds a dying Lyanna after she has just given birth to her son by Rhaegar, asking Ned for a promise to keep her son safe, and Ned spends the rest of his life to protecting his sister's son as his own. There are also ambiguous implications that Lyanna's disappearance may have been voluntary.
- Donella Hornwood gets locked in a tower by Ramsay Snow. Sansa Stark was also held in one in Maegor's Holdfast after her father and members of his household were killed. Neither of them were rescued during their stays in their respective towers, though Lady Donella's fate is considerably worse.
- The fourth book of the series has a chapter called "The Princess in the Tower," about Princess Arianne of Dorne after she has tried and failed to crown Myrcella Queen of the Seven Kingdoms and start a war with the Lannisters.
- Val, the so-called "wildling princess", is held captive by Stannis Baratheon in one of the towers of Castle Black — and she is even protected by a (sentient and friendly) giant. Ser Patrek's foolish attempt to prove his worth as a suitor, vying for her hand, causes no end of chaos.
- In the Conan the Barbarian story "The Hour of the Dragon," the Countess Albiona (a supporter of King Conan) is imprisoned in the Iron Tower of Tarantia because she refused to become the consort of a tyrannical puppet king. Conan infiltrates the tower through a hidden door, kills her jailers, and rescues her.
- Also, in The People of the Black Circle the Devi Yasmina is captured and imprisoned in a tower atop Mount Yimsha. This time, Conan infiltrates the tower with the help of an enchanted girdle that protects him from the magic of the evil wizards within.
- Done to Bellina in The Elenium because she is a cannibalistic Eldritch Abomination worshipper who needs to be locked away for the good of the surrounding villages.
- The abducted Princess Eilonwy is found in a tower of her ancestral home, Caer Colur, in the third book of The Chronicles of Prydain.
- In The Silmarillion, Lúthien is put in a treehouse high enough to be considered a tower. She escaped and went to help her beloved, Beren, finish his Engagement Challenge.
- In Gene Wolfe's Pandora by Holly Hollander, at the end, Holly decides on Staying with Friends. The friends look her over and conclude that since she's a teenaged girl, obviously she gets the tower room.
- Spoofed in Feersum Endjinn by Iain M. Banks. The handsome prince turns up to rescue the Damsel in Distress in her tower. She helps him climb most of the way up and then lets go of the rope so he'll fall to his death, as she knows she's in a Lotus-Eater Machine.
- In Stephanie Burgis's A Most Improper Magick, the story about Sir Neville is that while possessed by the Green-Eyed Monster, he locked his wife into a tower, where she died.
- The Last Dragon Chronicles: Zanna Martindale as Rosa.
- In Charles de Lint's Seven Wild Sisters, the bee fairy queen's daughters all ran off with 'sangmen. She had locked the seventh into a tower to prevent it. It didn't work.
- The Dream of Perpetual Motion. Mad Scientist Prospero Taligent lives in a tower with his daughter Miranda, designed to be a Gilded Cage she'll never want to leave. He doesn't react well to her running away and taking a lover.
- Clocks that Don't Tick has Martha. While it occurred before the main events of the novel, she once spent quite a long time alone maintaining the Space Needle.
- Marcus Didius Falco. The Germanic priestess Veleda lives in an abandoned Roman watchtower and may or may not have spent a night of love with handsome tribune Justinus.
- Wings of Fire has a male example — Queen Scarlet imprisons her grandson, Cliff, in a crematorium tower since he's said he's too young to be able too fly. Unfortunately for Scarlet, he was lying, and escapes as soon as he's given the chance.
Live Action TV
- Best Friends Whenever: Daisy was a 15th century princess who was locked up in a tower until she was accidentally broken out by a time rift and is now living in the present day.
- Clementina from Carrusel is kept locked away in her own home after her parents are hospitalized and she's in the care of her very overprotective aunts.
- Game of Thrones:
- Sansa Stark becomes one following her marriage to Ramsay Bolton, as she is kept locked in a bedroom. A particularly nasty example, as he is explicitly raping her every night.
- The last stages of Robert's Rebellion had Ned having to rescue Lyanna as she's being kept in a tower (dubbed Tower of Joy) at Dorne.
- The Legend of Dick and Dom episode "Princess Gladys" features the heroes rescuing the Princess though not her sister from the top of a tower in a castle guarded by the Evil Dancing Dolphins of Doom.
- The Goodies. Spoofed in "Camelot Capers" when Graham goes to rescue Rapunzel from her tower by climbing her hair, only when he puts his weight on it he yanks her out of the tower.
- Merlin: Gwen in "The Dark Tower," stated explicitly by Gawaine in the episode.
- Once Upon a Time: Once has used this trope a few times, including the Rapunzel episode, Cruella de Vil back story episode, and season 4 finale, where Emma is rescued by her son and her boyfriend. However in Cruella's case it turns out her mother kept her imprisoned due to Cruella murdering all three of her mother's husbands while a child. When she is released she murders her mother.
- Recycled In Space in the Blake's 7 episode "Hostage". The titular hostage is a former Love Interest of Blake being held prisoner by his Arch-Enemy Travis. In this case it's a derelict communications tower on the chalk cliff of a BBC Quarry. Unfortunately due to the low budget of this sci-fi series we only see the tower in a distant shot, plus a studio interior.
- Chris de Burgh: The Tower
In the wood was a bower where stood an an old towerAnd he threw her deep inside
- Rainbow: Sixteenth Century Greensleeves
It's only been an hour since he locked her in the towerThe time has come, he must be undone by the morning
- Blackmore's Knight: Ivory Tower
I feared not in the Ivory Tower, Imprisonment you'll findLies within your heart your soul, your spirit and your mind
Religion and Mythology
- Princess Philomela of Athens was first raped by her brother-in-law, King Thereus of Thracia, then had her tongue cut out and was thrown into a tower in the middle of the nearby forest so she wouldn't spill the beans. She then sewed a tapestry that represented her Break the Cutie process, then had a caretaker sneak it to her older sister Procne aka Thereus's wife, who then bailed her out. It went From Bad to Worse very quickly.
- It also happened in the myth of Saint Barbara, locked in a tower by her father Dioscorus so she wouldn't convert to Christianity. She still turned towards the Christian God, and once her dad found out, she was tortured and executed. (And her dad got hit by a Bolt of Divine Retribution for that.)
- Some versions of the myth of Saint Christina of Bolsena use this trope. In her case, her father Urban of Tyra locked her up in the tower half to escape marriage proposals coming from local nobles, half to get her trained to become a pagan priestess. Like in Barbara's case, Christina still defied her dad's will and became a Christian, and then was tortured and killed.
- The Lady of Shalott (who may also be Elaine of Astolat), from the Arthurian mythos, spends most of her life in a tower on an island. She can't even look directly at the outside world because of a curse, and spends her time watching Camelot in a mirror and weaving what she sees. Until she sees handsome Sir Lancelot, falls in love with him, and decides to venture into the outside world... She dies in a boat on the river, almost immediately.
- Mortarion of Warhammer 40,000 was raised in one, constantly forced to move to higher altitudes into the poisonous clouds of the planet by his adopted father. Ironically, as a Daemon Prince he now lives in a mountain fortress on a planet with a toxic atmosphere.
- Happens to Princess Jasmine in the play Sheik, Rattle and Roll, where she insists on finishing her song before allowing herself to be rescued.
- Rapunzel from Into the Woods.
- Johanna from Sweeney Todd. Although the edifice in question isn't technically a tower, it is still a high building and Johanna is still, for all intents and purposes, locked away from the outside world.
- Philia in A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum.
- Princess Cassima of King's Quest VI: Heir Today, Gone Tomorrow spends most of the game in a tower. In fact, her musical motif is called "Girl in the Tower."
- Valanice of King's Quest II: Romancing The Throne was also imprisoned in a tower; Graham takes it upon himself to rescue her, hoping for a Standard Hero Reward.
- Rosella was also locked in a tower in Lolotte's castle in King's Quest IV: The Perils Of Rosella. Good thing Edgar was more fond of her than he was of Lolotte.
- Taken Up to Eleven in King's Quest (2015) Chapter 3, which retells the end of King's Quest II where Graham finds Valanice in a tower. Only this time, there are two girls in the tower, and Graham becomes trapped there as well when it turns out that he rushed off to find his true love in the tower without thinking of how to actually rescue them. It turns out that Hagatha, who was the original girl in this tower, was invoking this trope by capturing maidens and imprisoning them in the tower in an attempt to get someone to come rescue them all, since she thought she was too ugly for anyone to want to save her by herself. In the end, Graham ends up freeing them all and marries one of the two girls who reveals her name to be "Valanice", though the other girl ends up back in the tower by the events of Chapter 4.
- Raz must make his way up Thorney Tower in Psychonauts, to rescue the Girl in the Tower.
- Dragon Quest IV has Rose, hidden away in a tower because Humans Are Bastards.
- Ki, the shrine maiden in The Tower of Druaga.
- ZUN, creator of Touhou, must be fond of this trope:
- Imperishable Night: In Eientei, Kaguya is safely hidden at the end of a long, long corridor that leads to outer space.
- Perfect Cherry Blossom: While it's more of an afterlife, the Hakugyokurou where Yuyuko resides is translated as "White Jade Tower". It's located high above the storm clouds.
- Embodiment of Scarlet Devil: Flandre is hidden in the underground cellar.
- Professor Layton and the Curious Village has the daughter of the Baron who owned the eponymous village living in a tower, and the heroes eventually rescue her at the game's ending. This is something of a twist on the trope, however, because she's not imprisoned up there — she can leave the tower whenever she pleases, and in fact is seen doing so (though the heroes don't know who she is at the time). She just can't leave the village.
- The Legend of Zelda:
- The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess has Link first meet the imprisoned Zelda in the tallest tower of Hyrule Castle, at which point he's informed that it's not just his home village that's in danger.
- The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild has Zelda similarly trapped, but with a twist: she has also been the one keeping Calamity Ganon trapped as a Sealed Evil in a Duel in the same tower ever since she was Swallowed Whole by the beast a century ago.
- In the PC game Love Chronicles: The Sword and the Rose, the Prince needs to get into the castle tower to rescue the Princess, who is being held prisoner by a hideous beast. But when he finally gets to the tower, he finds only the beast. The beast is actually the ensorcelled Princess.
- Princess Briar Rose in the first Dark Parables is asleep in a tower.
- Princess Sophia, the Sleeping Beauty-ish heroine of the Awakening series of PC games, begins the first game, Dreamless Castle, by waking up from her enchanted sleep in the tower of an almost empty castle. In a refreshing twist, Sophia is a self-rescuing princess who finds her own way out.
- Princess Peach in the Super Mario Bros. games.
- Namine in Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories. The twist is that although she was legitimately being held prisoner, she was cooperating with the bad guys by manipulating Sora's memories so that he would want to save her and thus becoming the pawn of Big Bad Marluxia. Her conscience wins out and she turns against her captors.
- Deirdre of Fire Emblem: Genealogy of the Holy War is a largely voluntary case. She's not physically locked up, but lives in a very secluded community in a forest and she's strictly forbidden from meeting men from the outside. This is because she is a distant descendant of Loputus, and could potentially give birth to someone capable of resurrecting him.
- Also, Deirdre's mother Cygiun was subjected to the same treatment, for exactly the same reason.
- The sort-of sequel Thracia 776 reveasls that Manfloy's heiress and granddaughter Sara was also locked away from the world. She is very unhappy about it.
- Bioshock Infinite has Elizabeth, who lives in a tower shaped like a giant angelic statue of herself, where she's observed in secret by scientists and slowly siphoned to produce the Vigors.
- Astra in Star Stealing Prince; the game kicks off when Prince Snowe learns of her existence and sets off on his own to rescue her. Within Snowe's dream, Dream Astra is one too. It's not necessary to save her to finish the game, but doing so leads to the Good Ending, while not doing so... Ironically, one of the people who put her in the tower, Lina was also an example of this in her backstory due to a prophecy foretelling that her child (Snowe) would destroy the world.
- This trope is central to the legend of the flower Maiden's Vigil in Seven Kingdoms: The Princess Problem. The maiden in question, so beautiful that her greedy, jealous father locked her away as a treasure, received the seeds as a gift from a mysterious woman. She planted the seeds outside her tower window and watered them with her tears, and soon enough, the plant grew so large and strong that she was able to climb down the stalk and escape, finally free to determine her own fate. The flower is considered good luck for any young lady with a similarly uncertain future.
- In a story arc of The Inexplicable Adventures of Bob!, Princess Voluptua is under siege inside Viceroy's Spire—with the variation that she's not a prisoner, and it's her tower, but she's still inside it and needs help as it's being attacked.
- In Erstwhile, Maid Maleen is locked in a tower to enforce a Parental Marriage Veto.
- xkcd features a girl who wants to be a lighthouse keeper. She reasons that she gets to be the girl in the tower, only she's the one saving people.
- Rachel from Tower of God, the subversion that she went there on purpose and yet has to reach the top.
- Moll from the series Battlepug, who may or may not be a prisoner in the tower she resides in.
- Sadie from Princess Princess is a very typical princess in a tower ... but lacks Rapunzel's long hair, which is why she still is in the tower at the beginning of the story.
- The Sleeping Beauty in the Fractured Fairy Tales version, which is a direct parody of the Disney version. The Prince (who looks like Walt Disney) realizes he can make a fortune off tourists so he turns the castle into SleepingBeautyLand.
- The opening sequence of the Australian cartoon series Arthur And The Square Knights Of The Round Table has Arthur "rescuing" Guinevere from a tower in Camelot. It was a mere spoof, though, she was getting ready to have dinner with him.
- Jenny from the pilot of My Life as a Teenage Robot is a variant of sorts. Jenny is kept in her room on the top floor, until the world needs saving. When Tuck claims to have seen a monster up there, Brad climbs up to see what it is.
- An episode of Jimmy Two-Shoes features a girl named Ariane held in a tower by Lucius. Jimmy and Beezy spend the entire episode trying to rescue her. When they do, she transforms into a giant bug monster and levels Miseryville. As Lucius put it, "She was in there for a reason."
- The lady Melissa in the Looney Tunes classic The Scarlet Pumpernickel.
- An episode of Tales From The Cryptkeeper had a twisted take on this, where the person the Prince Charmless and his put-upon younger brother think is a traditional Sleeping Beauty is actually a vampire.
- Invoked in one Gummi Bears episode by Cavin; when he and Princess Calla are captured and taken to Drekmore by the ogres, Cavin tells them that royal prisoners go in the tower. The ogres agree, but separate the two by putting Cavin in the regular dungeon.
- Invoked in a Kaeloo epsiode where the gang is playing a medieval-themed game. They force Stumpy to dress as a princess and make him sit on top of a tower so Quack Quack can rescue him.
- 850 Meters: The knight tries to rescue a Princess from a tower as his first attempt to get fame and fortune.
- What happened to Princess Gwenllian of Wales and her cousins after Wales was conquered by England. In the newborn Gwenllian's case, it was not just to keep her from marrying and having children when older, but to keep her completely hidden from the world.
- Also happened to the so-called 'Princes in the Tower', the sons of Edward IV of England: 12 year old Edward V, and his little brother, Richard of Shrewsbury, Duke of York, who were placed in the Tower of London by Richard, Duke of Gloucester, Lord Protector, who promptly usurped the throne and became Richard III. They were, nominally at least, under his protection, and occupied this position. Shortly after, however, the boys vanished, and despite the claims of pretenders Lambert Simnel and Perkin Warbeck, were widely accepted to be dead. 120 years of Tudor propaganda, including a play or two, ensured that Richard III was remembered as their murderer - or at the very least, the man who ordered their deaths. Which, to be fair, he probably was: he was the one with the most to gain and because they vanished without a trace from the most secure fortress in the country, one staffed by Richard's trusted men, and they were supposedly under Richard's protection (meaning that he was at least critically negligent).